During the peak of the corona crisis, Limburg was the most severely affected province in the country. Meanwhile, the virus is less likely to spread in Limburg, but German and Belgian (sales) tourists are crossing the border en masse as if there is ‘nothing’ going on here. Doesn’t that put us at risk of a second wave?
It seems that people have forgotten the coronavirus and its associated measures. This provides a great contrast. Especially when you consider that our province was the hardest hit in the entire country. With 431.63 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, we far exceeded all other provinces. This also applies to hospital admissions (139.64 per 100,000 inhabitants) and deaths (66.87 per 100,000 inhabitants). As Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Hugo de Jonge emphasized several times during their press conferences, we could only get the virus under control together. The Dutch and Limburg figures rose less and less and the pressure on healthcare decreased. Ultimately, the rules in our country were relaxed.
Despite the relaxation, you can still see a number of corona fires in our country. This is not the case in Limburg for the time being, but given the crowds at the tourist attractions, this seems only a matter of time. Germans and Belgians are finding their way back to our province en masse. In Belgium, masks are mandatory in many places, but as soon as our southern neighbors come here to find entertainment, they can leave the masks at home.
The fact that there are different rules in force on both sides creates the necessary confusion. Limburg is also struggling with the rules. This could recently be seen at amusement park Toverland in Sevenum. Toverland was allowed to fill the carts of the roller coaster completely with people as a test. In the roller coaster people were too close together: 1.35 meters instead of one and a half meters. Filling the entire roller coaster would shorten the queues and reduced the risk of people waiting in line to get too close together. Toverland had received the blessing for this from Mayor Ryan Palmen van Horst aan de Maas, who in turn appealed for permission from the Safety Region. The Limburg-Noord Safety Region strongly denied this and whistled Palmen and Toverland back. The trial was stopped immediately on Tuesday.
It is also busy in the Maastricht city center. There are compulsory walking lines and security guards walk around to address people if they do not keep a sufficient distance or unexpectedly run against the direction. Despite the crowds, the South Limburg Safety Region believes that the rules are being followed properly. Nevertheless, the Safety Region has started a new campaign together with Visit South Limburg. With a positive tone, both organizations want to ensure that residents and tourists in South Limburg will again adhere to the corona measures. People are praised for this with the slogans ‘Good that you follow the rules!’ and ‘Thank you for following the rules!’.
The Designer Outlet in Roermond was closed during the peak of the corona virus. When the brand village reopened, a maximum number of visitors was allowed to shop. Now it is busy as usual. Many visitors complain about the crowds and the way the shopping center deals with the corona measures. The news came out on Wednesday that two stores had to close their doors because of staff infected with Covid-19. It concerns clothing store Colin’s and shoe store Stuart Weitzman. Despite the shower of complaints from visitors and the contamination of staff members, measures did not appear to be forthcoming. Acting chairman of the Limburg North Safety Region and Mayor of Roermond Rianne Donders was not available on Tuesday for a response.
Should the rules in Limburg be tightened to prevent a possible second wave? It is an issue that municipalities, security regions and event organizations still seem to struggle with. Yes, crowds in inner cities and other tourist attractions make money. Moreover, all the crowds in the open air have not yet led to a significant growth in the number of infections in our province. While there is no such increase, we may wonder whether financial gain outweighs the risk of a second wave? An unambiguous answer cannot be given here for the time being. You do see that measures are being taken. For example, there was some haggling about whether or not to allow introduction weeks for students. Enforcement of corona measures would be too complicated in the introduction activities. For example, the introduction week in Venlo is already over. In Maastricht, the INKOM will continue, albeit in an adapted form. There is a good chance that (stricter) measures will also follow in other places.